x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

A wife looks for sympathy and gets more than she expected

This is what pregnancy is like: a series of bad days punctuated by the odd good day.

When I was writing last week's column, it happened to be a good day, which meant I was able to come up with a lot of reasons why it's not so bad being pregnant.

This week, however, heartburn has reared its ugly head and I am now officially blind to any beauty in this world.

This is what pregnancy is like: a series of bad days punctuated by the odd good day, or so Mr T tells me is his personal observation. He continues to wear a martyr's cloak and suffer in silence, and I continue to make lists. Lists, I find, are like a soothing balm, allowing me to articulate all my frustration, then take a deep, calming breath once I'm done.

Here are my random observations on why being pregnant is not all it's cracked up to be:

• I am treated like a criminal every time I wear a pair of heels. If they happen to be platforms, I'm usually accused of child abuse

• My only redeeming physical quality - my waist - seems to have become a distant memory.

• Everything is a lie. For example: apples do not cure heartburn, and neither do almonds. Sometimes, not even drugs cure heartburn. Also, morning sickness? Seriously? I cannot get over what a ridiculous lie this is, most likely invented by a man who just stopped paying attention when his wife was still puking at 3pm in the afternoon.

• Vitamins are the devil's food. How have they not yet invented a non-smelly vitamin that is not the size of a tennis ball? Why am I still being forced to swallow these toxic-smelling bombs?

• Every single belt I have in my wardrobe has become a waste of space.

• Every menu has become a minefield, because deciding what to eat is akin to mental gymnastics (you have to consider what you're not allowed to eat, what you already hate to eat, what you suspect might make you barf if you were to eat it, what you fear might cause heartburn soon after you eat it and what you hope you won't get bored of half way through eating it).

• People use all sorts of strange lingo that you are automatically expected to understand as a pregnant woman, and yet which will cause you to break out in a sweat. Examples? Effaced (I still don't know how that's different from "dilated"). Irritable uterus (and no, it doesn't simply mean your uterus needs a nap). Afterbirth (why can't they just stick to calling it the placenta?). Mask of pregnancy (this has nothing to do with superheroes).

• To some people, I am now "preggers", a term used to describe pregnancy, and not, it seems, the Prego brand of pasta sauce. This term irks me.

• I may still wear heels out of defiance, but they are uncomfortable and becoming more and more alien to me the more I rely on my flats, prompting terrifying nightmares that I will forget how to walk in heels, or that I will lose all the endurance I have built up over the years to handle the pain of heels.

• I am expected to get on a scale to measure my weight on a regular basis, which is something I try not to do more than once a year. I really, really hate this about pregnancy.

• I live in a world of perpetually bad hair. I am either constantly reminded that I should not dye my hair while pregnant, or constantly assured that so-and-so dyed her hair while pregnant and is completely fine. The doctor says don't do it, the hairdresser says go ahead. The other doctor says do it, but only after 16 weeks of pregnancy have passed, the other hairdresser says do it, just not highlights. The magazines say do it, but only if you opt for highlights, and the online forums say do it and be prepared to welcome a child with deformities. Either way, I am miserable, have terrible hair streaked with silver and must be prepared to contend with a lot of guilt if I were to do something about it.

• My pretty summer dresses no longer fit right. If I'd known this would happen so quickly, I would have arranged to be pregnant during the winter time, while living in a very cold climate that does not call for summer dresses.

When I sat Mr T down and made him listen as I read out this list to him, he at first had the decency to cluck in sympathy and leave it at that. He offered comfort by agreeing with me that "everything sucks". He even bit back a retort when I came back home with a new pair of towering heels that I insisted were "comfortable".

Then, he decided to take this whole "being supportive" thing one step further, and share his own complaints every time I moaned or groaned. I'd read about this - it's called a couvade pregnancy - and is apparently the term used when the husband undergoes some of the same (hateful) symptoms that his pregnant wife can't stop whining about; sort of like a sympathetic or phantom pregnancy of his own.

Unfortunately, Mr T has also read about this dubious phenomenon and convinced himself of its existence. Why else, then, would my husband claim to be suffering from nausea, bloatedness, tired limbs and an uncharacteristic case of insomnia? For a man who hasn't had a single health complaint in the entire time I've known him, Mr T is suddenly the victim of a variety of different ailments: headaches, toothaches, indigestion, changes in appetite, and, in my opinion, altered hormonal levels.

Funnily enough, the one symptom he seems to be avoiding is weight gain, which only leaves me cradling some very murderous thoughts.

Hala Khalaf is the deputy Arts & Life editor at The National


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